Even as the LGBTQI+ movement continues to gain weight in the country, Kitty Su stands as a formidable symbol of inclusivity. Targeted at creation of an inclusive society, over the course of its seven year journey, Kitty Su has evolved into something bigger than just a luxurious club known for its DJ parties and high profile private events. It is a brainchild of Keshav Suri, the son of the late hotel magnate Lalit Suri, who has been instrumental in restarting the drive against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalises a consensual relationship between consenting adults of the same sex.
The anniversary celebrations have already started and the euphoria is set to reach its crescendo on the D-Day (August 25), which would be witnessing performances by international drag queen and RuPaul’s Drag Race participants Milk and Thorgy Thor along with Maya – The Drag Queen and Rani Ko-HE-Nur. “I want to use the occasion to highlight the direction that Kitty Su is taking. It is not just a night club anymore but has actually evolved into a huge space for inclusion and diversity, LGBTQ community, acid burn survivors, differently-abled people. Surprisingly, I didn’t expect that Kitty Su would last this long. But what’s even more special is how it has taken shape of a movement,” explains an upbeat Suri. What makes Kitty Su’s success an important case study is how it has continued to thrive even as most night clubs in Delhi are finding it difficult to keep the patrons interested. “Over the years, Kitty Su has not just survived but it has actually moved into such an open-minded sphere. We have also been able to have these conversations that no other night club is daring to have,” rejoices Suri.
At Kitty Su, for every male DJ, there is a female DJ as well and so in keeping up with the spirit of gender parity the gala night will feature an electrifying performance from Yass Queens (only women DJs). Also present on the occasion would be DJ Aamish—India’s only DJ on a wheel chair. “You can expect the best music out there. One thing which you are going to see is happy faces all around. When people come to Kitty Su they embrace a sense of inclusivity. It is breaking stereotypes and helping people overcome dilemmas. In fact, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call it a movement now,” asserts Aamish, who lost his legs in a fatal accident four years ago. Although he has been coming to Kitty Su for many years, he started performing at the club only a year back when the management, seeing his passion and talent, decided to give him a break. All these years music has proven to be a great healer for Aamish. “Actually even before the accident, I wanted to become a music producer but my father wanted me to complete my masters first. During the first two years of my injury I had so much time that I actually ended up learning a lot of things about music and the nuances associated with it. Of course, the internet was of great help. My love for music actually helped me forget about my injury,” recollects Aamish.
While DJs and music are a big part of Kittu Su’s arsenal, it is drag artists who almost always steal the limelight. Alex Mathew, who goes by the stage name of Maya – The Drag Queen, explains, “Drag is all about entertainment. You go on stage and perform. If you are a man then you do it as drag queen and if you are a woman you do it as a drag king. So basically we portray this larger than life persona on stage. For the gala night on the 25th, we basically have two RuPaul’s Drag Race queens from season 6 and season 8, respectively. We are looking at boys in high heels. We are looking at women playing DJs. So there is lot of inclusion and diversity.” Although, a potpourri of international drag performances is lined up for Satruday, it is the desi drag queens, Maya and Rani Ko-HE-Nur, who would be hosting the event together. “I am basically from Kerala and my persona is that of a Malayali aunty who is a regular at kitty parties. So you can expect a lot of South Indian banter from me,” promises Alex.
In the recent years, the drag culture has seen a remarkable growth in India and Kitty Su has been at the forefront of this vibrant movement. But, perhaps, there is no better example of drag culture as an art form than what Queen Harish’s larger-than-life dance performances reflect. Suri understands this well and that’s why he has brought the legendary drag queen from Jaisalmer to Kitty Su as a special attraction. Harish, who has been performing since the age of 13, says, “I lost my parents at a young age and so I had to perform to feed myself as well as my sisters. So my entry into the drag scene was out of sheer necessity and nothing else. I would dress as a girl and dance for tourists across different venues in Jaisalmer,” recounts Harish. “Back then people laughed at me but today a lot has changed as drag is finally getting its due as an art form,” avers Harish.
Back in the 90s, The LaLit group used to run a club called Annabel. And, just like Kitty Su, Annabel too was based on a female character which talks in first person. And so the group’s experience of successfully running Annabel for about a decade paved the way for Kitty Su. “Kitty Su has always been about inclusion. The character Kitty Su, created by me, herself is a drag queen. We have always been very open-minded and forward thinking when it came to gender equality and when it came to inclusion. But a lot changed after the Supreme Court verdict came out to reverse the High Court judgement on Section 377,” recollects Suri.
Suri, who is openly gay, sees Kitty Su as a hub for not only the LGBTQI+ community but for anyone and everyone facing social exclusion or social marginalisation. “Seven years ago the driving force was that there was no club in Delhi. Even in Gurgaon there was no Cyber Hub. I was back from my studies abroad and I wanted to do something in India and make a mark in my own organisation. Also, I wanted a night club where I can go. So basically I went about creating spaces for people like me and for people in my community which I feel I have managed to achieve over the last seven years,” explains Suri. “I think we have a long journey ahead when it comes to inclusion and diversity and I don’t just mean Kitty Su but the country in general,” sums up Suri.